One of the toughest decisions for any parent is whether or not to send their kids to daycare. This decision can be even more difficult, and more critical, for parents of children with CHDs. The intention of this article is not to argue the merits or faults of daycare – it is to help parents who make the tough decision to send their heart (or heart healthy) kids to daycare.
We made the decision to send our son Tucker, who has HLHS, to daycare before we knew abouthis defect. In the weeks after his diagnosis, we struggled with fear and hesitation but decided to stick with our decision. Although it has been difficult at times, we have learned to trust our instincts and the professionals we chose to care for our child. If you are considering daycare as an option, this list of tips will help to make your transition easier:
1. First and foremost, make sure any daycare you are considering is capable and comfortable with having your CHD child attend. You may want to look for day care centers that employ a full or part-time nurse or who has had heart kids before. Most day care centers require emergency training for all childcare workers, but double-check that anyone who will be directly responsible for your child is CPR-certified.
2. Visit any daycares you are interested in, but go without your child the first time so that you won’t have any distractions. Ask questions and address any concerns you may have with the daycare or its services.
3. Once you have narrowed your selections, you should visit again to let them meet your child and to go over the details of his/her defect. Explaining the defect, and most importantly, letting them see that your child is normal, should ease any fears before they arise.
4. On the first day, arrive 15-20 minutes early to make sure that there are no questions. Provide a few written instructions for your child, including any problem signs to watch for and any special instructions (i.e. medications, physical or feeding problems, dietary restrictions, etc.). Frequently update any special instructions to ensure that they stay abreast of any changes.
5. Provide contact information for yourself, an alternate emergency contact, your child’s pediatrician, and your child’s cardiologist.
6. Being in daycare may make your child more susceptible to colds, flu, stomach bugs, etc., but remember that ALL kids get sick and most childhood sicknesses are no more dangerous to heart kids than they are to normal kids. Communicate frequently with the daycare to see if there are any illnesses going around. You may need to keep your child at home from time to time, especially during RSV season, but remember, all kids get sick, even ones who don’t go to daycare. Pay close attention to your child to prevent any serious problems.
7. Lastly, trust your instincts and do what’s best for you and your family. You should be able to leave your child without any concern for his/her care and safety. If at any point you don’t feel comfortable with your child’s daycare, start looking for a new one. You know your child better than anyone, so advocate for him/her.
While this article was targeted toward families considering daycare, many of these tips apply when getting your child ready to start school. You may not be choosing between different schools, but preparing the school for your child and making them aware of the defect, symptoms, emergency info, etc. are universal factors to consider and keep in mind.
Director of Local Support
Whole Hearts Foundation
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